In the pest control industry, the vast majority of the products we need and use, are absolutely unknown to our customers. It’s unlikely that they know the names of more than one or two of our routinely-used products. Indeed, the typical customer has no idea what products we use and which products should be used in a given situation. They have no idea what to use, where and when. So, if all the products we use are so totally unknown, how is a customer to select a pest control company to take care of their needs? The answer is branding.
Branding, is what guides customers to us. Your ability to manage your branding, to a large extent, determines whether you succeed or not. When newly-formed pest control companies are being built, they often start with questions like, “Where am I going to buy my products?” And, “What kind of sprayer am I going to use?”, and “What kind of truck will I get?”, and other questions such as these. But they also should be looking at, “How should I brand my new business?” This is key because branding dictates which customers find us. If you are not well-branded for your market, you have almost no chance of success. So what makes good branding?
In many industries, there are really two types of branding, Value (or ‘Budget’) and Premium. You could look at these as different ways of running your business, as they essentially are. Your chosen branding should dictate your primary focus.
Let’s back up for a second, and look at branding and focus. It’s important to understand the difference between these two. Branding, determines how customers look at you. Whereas, Focus, is best described as how you operate your business. They are very similar but they’re not the same. In successful companies they will be in quite close synchrony. In unsuccessful businesses they will often be in conflict.
In short, value-based businesses are focused on delivering all services at the lowest possible price. Premium-based businesses are focused on providing the best possible service. In reality, these represent two ends of a continuum. Your job, in branding your business, is to decide where your business should sit on this continuum or gradient.
Let’s picture this gradient visually. On one end, we have companies that are value-based, where they are intensely focused on providing service at the lowest possible price. They will cut any corners possible. Think Wal-Mart. At the other end, are companies that provide premium service at a somewhat higher price. They will do what it takes to delight the customer. Think of fine restaurants. Branding is where your customers think you sit on this gradient. Focus is what you choose to emphasize, day in and day out. For you to succeed, your branding should illustrate your focus.
In any trade area, you will have successful companies at both ends of this branding gradient. But I will argue, here, that the premium end of things has more opportunities for growth and profit. Since the focus of this blog is to help you build your profits, we will focus on branding your company as a premium service provider. Although software can also provide advantages to value-based companies, it particularly shines when helping companies that want to achieve premium branding.
If you choose to be the Premium provider in your trade area, you will manage your brand and your customers with extra care. The goal here is to provide the best possible service. You will always be looking for ways to improve your service. Our goal is to convey, to our customers, that our focus is on providing quality service. That is precisely what premium branding is.
How can software help you achieve premium branding in the eyes of your customers? Software allows a range of services that are simply not possible without computers. Good software provides hundreds of features to help you provide great service, but let’s look at just a dozen to illustrate the range. Taken together, software features can go a long way toward branding you as a premium provider. And if well executed will absolutely lead to higher profits.
1) Reminders of when an upcoming service is scheduled. A quick call, email or a text message a couple days before your service date keeps everyone happier. Letting your customer tell you which they prefer is even better. Software can easily manage these, and in the case of emails and texts, can do them fully automatically.
2) Mining of your data by services and pests, so as to know who to contact when new products and options become available. New products come onto the market every year. Occasionally they are dramatically better and/or safer than the previous generation. Being able to quickly find all of your customers that have dealt with that pest in the last year or two, can allow you to send them a note informing them of this new product. Keeping your customers informed of changes is a key component of premium branding.
3) Scheduling by Anticipation is valuable. You should be able schedule services by approximate dates of when you suspect your customer will need service. The classic example is to advance schedule today’s new customer and service, for the same time next year. If they had trouble with ants in May this year, there is a good chance that they’ll have the same issue next year at this time. Anticipation. A courtesy call often generates delight in your thoughtfulness. Make phone calls today, based upon work orders done one year ago. Your reaching out, a year later, is often received as a gracious courtesy, and will often be very well received.
4) Printed call sheets so you can reach out to your customers with Approximate Date WOs and convert them to Actual Dates. Typically Approximate Date scheduling is used for any date greater than 30 days in the future.
5) Auto-Printing of renewal letters is insure the highest percentage of long-term agreements.
6) Unlimited customer notes of any number or length, each auto-timestamped, so you can keep track of all the details about a customer that are necessary for you to be thoughtfully informed. This is critically important! So, in PestaRoo, we show the three most recent notes right on the Choose Customer screen, and even allow you to search all notes everywhere, anytime from Home Page. For example, “Who called about earwigs last week?” With global searching, this is an easy answer. Surprise your customer with your memory, by letting your software assist your ‘memory’! Kids names, anniversaries, birthdays, last services and things like that. If you only had 25 customers you could probably remember a large amount of information on each one of those. And those customers would each benefit from a very personal service from you. With good software you can have 5000 customers or more and still seem to have the same type of expansive memory thus providing the same level of delight. That is the goal of great software.
7) Notifications via smart phone texts to your technician about last minute service calls. This is huge in the busy season. When you receive an critical last minute request, you can send all the critical info to your tech, literally with a single click. Whether he is driving or talking to a key customer, you have discretely informed him of the additional work. No scrambling for paper to write your note on, and you don’t have to wait for him to answer a cell call, or to try several times to reach him. And best of all, your ’emergency’ customer is promptly taken care of with little or no fuss.
8) Incredibly fast searching for a customer from anywhere anytime so you can get to their notes within mere seconds of answering the phone. Search by name, address city, balance due, or even part of the phone number! Most good software will have a universal button bar with critical commonly used buttons like, “Choose Customer”.
9) Rapid response letters giving answers when a customer calls with a question. Your software should let you compose a full ‘library’ of letters, with answers, to frequently asked questions, so you can quickly print a letter or send an email with only one click to address your customer question. “Why does a flea problem need two treatments?” “What can we do to help control our ant problem?” “Tell me about your rodent control program.” “How does a colony elimination system work for termite control?” It should be easy to create these letters, and easy to send them.
10) Offer annual expense summaries at tax time to help your customer track their deductibles. For your customers that itemize, they will be thrilled with your offer. With great software this is very easy.
11) Use Alerts all the time! Alerts are little reminders for you so you don’t forget to follow-up on a quote, a customer question, a special day, or whatever.
12) Change Logs to document the correcting of errors. It is actually hard to not make errors with customer data. And when we do, we need some easy way to know if the error has been corrected, and by who. This is the function of change logs. Lets say you correct a phone number for a customer. A Change Log allows you to see the previous number (if any), the new number, who corrected it, and when it was corrected. Why is this part of Premium service? Getting your customer’s data right is expected as a common social courtesy and shows you care enough to immediately fix any errors.
Great software makes it easy to do provide these 12 services. We could have listed 50 or even 100. But these 12, if fully utilized will quickly slide your customer’s perception of you, toward the premium end of the spectrum. Focus on premium services, with your software’s help, and your new branding will lead you to higher profits.
So, what are you waiting for? Go build your brand as a premium provider!